There is no more meaningful sound in a hospital delivery room than that of a newborn taking the first breath. Whether part of a sputtering cough or a dramatic cry, that initial respiration is a significant moment. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the maternity ward experience, you can imagine how in tune the doctors, nurses, technicians, and parents are for that telltale sound of life.
Why? Because respiration—the process by which the lungs absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide—not only is vital to life but also is considered the very sign of it. Life itself depends on this thing we call breathing, and God chose to create us in such a way that it is essential to our every moment.
As Christians, we believe there is something else that should be considered vital to life: God’s Word. However, when was the last time you considered Scripture to be as important to your life as breathing? It’s one thing to acknowledge the Bible as a source of wisdom and counsel for our daily endeavors, but is it really something we can’t live without?
READ 2 Timothy 3:14-17
The apostle Paul believed strongly in Scripture’s ability to guide, teach, and deepen one’s faith. Our Bibles contain two letters he addressed specifically to his dear protégé Timothy. Both are chiefly concerned with encouraging and advising the younger man in the task of proclaiming the gospel in Ephesus, a unique and difficult place for ministry. (See Acts 19-20.) An important hub for commerce, this affluent city also boasted the magnificent temple of Diana (Artemis, to the Greeks), which drew tourists and worshippers from all across the Mediterranean world. No wonder Paul urged Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8), and to be prepared for persecution from those resistant to sound godly teaching.
When was the last time you considered Scripture to be as important to your life as breathing?
In this second letter to Timothy, it becomes clear Paul knew his own time on earth had grown short. Beginning in 3:14, the apostle encouraged Timothy to stay the course. Whether or not Paul believed he’d get to see his beloved student again, he made sure to point Timothy to the things the young man would always have with him—his education, upbringing, and grasp of Scripture.
It was important to Paul that Timothy have something solid—something eternal—he could look to and trust in, especially as the work became harder. So, in the midst of his encouragement, Paul offered his protégé a powerful image to contemplate.
“All Scripture is God-breathed,” Paul wrote (v. 16 NIV), using the Greek word theopneustos, (from roots meaning “God” and “breathe”). This is the only place in Scripture that the word appears. However, it is not the only place we find the image of God breathing.
• In Genesis 2:7, what makes Adam into a living being rather than merely an arrangement of dust? The Hebrew word ruwach (1:2; 3:8) carries multiple meanings, including “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit.” What correlation do you see between the Spirit of God present at the start of creation, and God breathing into Adam to make him a living being?
• In John 20:19-23, the resurrected Lord appeared to His fearful disciples; why did John believe the detail of Jesus breathing on them was significant? How did “the breath of God” change them? (See Acts 4:13-20, 31.) How should it change us?
• The Bible can at times seem intimidating—a colossal collection of histories, laws, outlandish stories, and outdated letters. Yet before God breathed into Adam, the first man was just a collection of dust. Before Jesus breathed upon the disciples, they were just a collection of nobodies. How does Paul’s description of Scripture as “God-breathed” move us to trust and rely upon it?
• Think back to when you have felt anxiety about an impending task or sadness over tragedies befalling our world. How does the image of God breathing into you shift your perspective? What counsel can the Scriptures offer at such times?
• In your personal Bible study and prayer times, consider how even the simple act of breathing can serve as a constant connection and immovable anchor to God’s presence. Try one of the following:
1. As you start to pray, take three deep breaths and hold each for a moment. Another word for inhalation is inspiration. Imagine you are breathing in God’s Spirit anew. As you exhale, ask the Lord to remove any self-centered buildup that’s accumulated within you.
2. Type selah into an online Bible search and read one or more psalms containing this worship direction. When you come to the word—which the Amplified Bible renders as “pause, and calmly think of that”—take a moment and relish a deep, life-giving breath before continuing.
3. Whether praying for yourself or others, don’t rush through the list or hurry to finish. Rather, separate each request with a breath, which will force you to slow down and allow each subject of your prayer time to be fully called to your mind’s eye.
Too many of us are addicted to hurry, filling days with tasks and leaving little if any room for stillness. This week, spend at least a few minutes each day in silent reflection. Sit on the porch, take a walk around the neighborhood, or even switch off the car radio. Job knew that God had “the breath of all mankind” in His hand (12:10). So commune with God simply by listening to the sound of your own breathing. Hear it as a reminder that the Lord is intimately close—as close as the air you breathe.